Over the years, I have been asked various questions about practicing magic. The questions come from people of different backgrounds and levels of experience. Some seem to have been inspired by pop culture imagery more than practical magical use, and some come in from different areas of personal morals or ethics. So I have decided to address some of the more in-depth ones.
When is okay to do magic?
I’m not talking about when is it proper to time spells or rituals according to moon phases, days of the week, planetary hours, or astrological correspondences. This question is about when is it proper to do magic for a situation. Or how to make the decision whether or not a spell should be cast.
I believe that before any magic should be studied or used, it is very important that the practitioner have a solid moral compass or personal code of ethics within themselves. Many magical people in the spell-slinging community follow the Wiccan Rede, or something akin to it that guides them not to harm others with their work. While I personally don’t ascribe to a hard-line “no harm” rule, I do believe that it is a good goal to have in mind when considering whether or not to work magic, or what type of magic is appropriate. My own personal code of ethics includes being honorable, being trustworthy, and accepting personal responsibility (both mundanely and magically) for any actions I take. Accepting personal responsibility also carries with it the understanding that I must look towards future repercussions of my actions and be mindful of the course I take. Being a responsible Witch involves more than just flinging out spells without care or concern to the after-effects on myself and others. I strive to consider a ‘no harm’ option as a first choice, but I don’t rule out using magic if that option isn’t practical.
So, the FIRST thing that should be taken into consideration when deciding to do magic: the maturity of the caster.
Following this then is the experience and knowledge of the caster. If you don’t know how to do magic, you shouldn’t do it. Seems simple, doesn’t it? But this includes a level of knowledge that goes beyond the skill needed to read a book, light a candle, or mix together some herbs. Using book spells is acceptable, and a good jumping-off point to learning how to perform magic. But if you don’t understand enough to write your own spells, then you don’t know enough about how magic can, should, and does work to use them. This is why most (not all) magic-users are not inclined to hand out spells to those who ask for them. Spells are something that have been carefully constructed and are deeply personal to the creator. Some people are okay with sharing recipes of their family’s favorite foods while others keep those recipes for themselves or their own descendants. Magical spells can be thought of in a similar way, only with pumpkin pie, you aren’t necessarily worried about possible energetic repercussions of the random person making and serving it for a holiday dinner. If you don’t understand WHY a certain color candle is being used, or WHY those specific herbs are chosen, or WHY a particular type of chant or drum pattern is used, or HOW to raise, focus, and send magical energy, then you most likely don’t have enough knowledge to do magic safely.
The third thing that I have seen mentioned is something that seems to be inspired by pop culture references more than the views and experiences of actual Witches. There is a concept that has been floating around, mostly since Charmed became popular, but I think it’s also been referenced in other television shows. This is the idea of not doing magic for personal gain.
What. The. Bleeping. Bleep.
This is one of the dumbest ideas to come out of “Hollywood”.
ALL MAGIC IS FOR PERSONAL GAIN.
Let me say that again… ALL MAGIC IS FOR PERSONAL GAIN.
Even when magic is being cast for the benefit of another, don’t we gain a good feeling for helping them? Don’t we work magic to help and heal others because we have a concern for their well-being and want to see them do well or improve? Isn’t that the slightest bit selfishly motivated? Don’t we like knowing that we helped, especially when we can be thanked for it? While the caster might not be the one receiving the biggest slice of benefit in the situation, please don’t think that we get nothing out of it.
Also, since magic is powered by Personal Will, you have to want what you are doing the magic for. You have to want it with every cell in your body, every thought in your mind, every feeling in your heart. If your own desire is what is driving the magic in the first place, then all magic you do is for personal gain, because if you don’t want it to happen, it’s not going to work.
Now, for the more direct idea behind this, that spells to improve oneself are improper/immoral/unethical… That is a load of crap.
There is nothing wrong with doing magic for yourself. Work magic to get the job you want, work it to get a better living place, a new romance, prosperity or an abundance of money, health, happiness, success, protection, etc. You are every bit as deserving and entitled to have a happy life as anyone else. The idea of being a selfless, altruistic, martyr-doormat-ascetic may have a place in other practices or systems of belief, but it is not the natural state of being for a Witch (unless that is your personal path and you choose to follow it, then by all means, have at it, but don’t think that everyone must subscribe to this ethic — because that is just selfish.)
For example: You need to get a higher paying position or a new job. You just aren’t making enough money to meet your needs (or that of your family, if you are in a supportive role for others). But, you worry that doing magic to improve your situation involves manipulation of your boss to a degree, or the fact that for you to get the raise/new job, that means someone else didn’t get it. Both of these are true. But, if you don’t do magic, and you get the job/promotion, didn’t you still take that away from someone else? Didn’t your boss favor you over another? If your concern is truly that doing magic to meet your needs violates another person’s chances for success, then you are actually opting to take yourself out of the entire cycle of energy and connection with the world around you. Witches need to do the opposite — we need to be plugged in and connected to our surroundings. It’s my opinion that if you are so burdened with the idea that magic for personal gain is inherently wrong, you shouldn’t seek to practice magic.
Along the lines of the question of when is it okay to do magic, let’s talk about the timeline of events that lead to the point of pulling out a spell for a situation.
Some people say that magic should be used as a last resort, others that magic should be your first go-to for dealing with something. Personally, I don’t have a hard-line rule about this either. I think it is more important that magical and mundane work together than whether or not one always gets to go first. Balance is the key here. If you focus too much on mundane without giving your magical muscles a chance to work out, then they will atrophy and you won’t have them to rely on when you really need them. Likewise, if you want to sling a spell at every single issue, you’re going to lose your ability to keep yourself rooted in the mundane when you need to. Witches are Walkers Between the Worlds, which means we should be able to fluidly operate in both realms, one foot in each, with the ability to pull our attention towards whichever is needed at any given moment.
I mean by magical and mundane working together that you don’t neglect one for the other. Again, since we operate in both realms of existence (since they’re actually one-in-the-same, but that’s something for another blog post) in order to meet our goals, both streams of consciousness need to be heading in the same direction. Magic is less likely to be effective if it is not receiving the full focus of your intention. If you want to do magic to meet a goal or achieve something, make sure that your actions in the mundane are headed in the same direction. If magic and mundane are working in opposition to one another, the energy has to struggle to move and is much more likely to fizzle and burn out.
Magic is one of the greatest tools in Witchcraft and it takes time and effort and study, as well as talent, to be able to wield it effectively. The question of when to put it to use is tricky and based on all these principles, and maybe more. I haven’t gone into great detail about using divination to check things out before you do a spell, nor the steps involved in deciding what sort of magic you should use to best meet your needs, but be assured those are important things to take into consideration as well. I hope to come back to and address those topics in a future continuation of this. Until then, I hope I have at least offered some clarity and given you some things to think about when considering when to do magic.